THERE WAS A POINT in this Flyers season when it was logical to consider signing free-agent forward

Brendan Shanahan

. Mounting losses, bad defense and a quiet locker room all begged for change. And just as it made sense to consider bringing in a fiery, but much older, veteran presence to stir things up, it makes just as much sense right now to forget the whole thing.

The Flyers seem to have turned things around all on their own. They won their fourth straight game Saturday night, an overtime victory against Phoenix at home. Coach John Stevens is taking care of whatever motivation was lacking before, sitting guys while cutting ice time for some and increasing it for others.

Take a look at the ice times, and you can see without asking who Stevens thinks is playing well. Rookie Andreas Nodl is getting more time right now than both Joffrey Lupul and Scottie Upshall.

It might have something to do with who Stevens thinks matches up best with Jeff Carter. It has more to do with the fact that Stevens likes Nodl and thinks he should stay with the Flyers, translating into more ice time.

So now the Flyers are a team playing accountable hockey and being held accountable by the coach. They don't need more goals; they are fourth in the league in goals-scored average.

Goals against? That's another story. They are 21st. Most of that came early in the season when they couldn't cover their own end and didn't have goaltender Marty Biron playing the way he is right now.

This isn't to say that the Flyers are a complete team firing on all pistons. They still turn the puck over in their own end at a scary rate despite what they say after games about it being along the wall and to the outside.

A turnover is a turnover and there were some shaky moments in the shutout Friday night in Buffalo. The 3-0 score did not tell the whole story of that game. Just look at the Coyotes' first goal Saturday night.

The Flyers need a calmer presence in the defensive zone, and they still need a quicker, more effective way out of trouble in their end.

Is Shanahan going to do that? Not a chance.

That will come when Randy Jones and Ryan Parent return, about 3 to 4 weeks away.

And there is the crux of the problem.

Shanahan reportedly wants between $1.3 million and $1.5 million. That number will decrease as more time passes without him making a decision. But even if he drops his price to $1 million, the Flyers can't sign him without taking a chunk out of what they have now and will have when Jones and Parent come back.

So who do you take out or trade? Drop Nodl to the Phantoms? No. Trade Mike Knuble, third in scoring on the team? It would give you the cap room, but that switch doesn't make sense on any level.

I guess they could look at moving players whom Stevens seems unsatisfied with, but aren't those guys part of that young core the Flyers keep saying they love so much?

So forget it.

Move on. Say thanks to Shanahan for making the trip, providing a few weeks of distraction and giving general manager Paul Holmgren a hammer to hold over his team's head, which was not his intention. He really wanted the Rangers free agent.

But Holmgren does not have the cap space now, and won't have it in the coming weeks, unless he does something drastic.

Captain Fridge

It was great to see

Todd Fedoruk

wearing an "A" on his sweater Saturday night and playing a legitimate offensive role for the Coyotes. Fedoruk was a warrior when he was with the Flyers, and he has been bounced around the league a bit since he was traded to Anaheim.

And he's always been a leader off and on the ice. So good for him for finally finding that kind of respect and recognition.

Snap shots

Marty Biron

's 40 saves in Buffalo Friday night were the most he has made in his 24 career shutouts . . . Cherry Hill native

Bobby Ryan

, 21, is getting closer to a permanent home in Anaheim. After 3 years of bouncing back and forth from the minors, he has played four games with the Ducks, has two goals and two assists, and is averaging 16 minutes of ice time. That, of course, doesn't mean the team won't use him to dodge the cap. He was sent down for 24 hours recently with

Bret Festerling

to save an estimated $12,000 in cap money . . .

Claude Giroux

has not been among the legion of players called up from the Phantoms yet this year, despite being second on the team in points with nine goals and eight assists in 20 games. The problem is after not making the team out of camp, the Flyers felt it would be better for the prospect to play a lot in the minors than a little in the NHL. Stevens said last week that he still feels that way . . . Former Flyers goalie

Brian Boucher

is 7-1-1 with San Jose this season and has started the last seven games while

Evgeni Nabokov

gets his skates back on the ice after missing almost 3 weeks with a leg injury. Boucher is not going to be threatening Nabokov's job, but he is making a case for himself regardless . . .

Danny Briere

continues to skate but is not making progress recovering from his groin pull and won't play tonight against Dallas. *

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